Advancing creative and critical scholarship on religion in the world

Berkeley Public Forum on Religion

Religion and Language: Symposium & Roundtable

The symposium focuses on the relationship between religion and language, from three perspectives. One perspective concerns the legitimacy and the limits of applying human language to the divine. How is it possible to speak about the divine? Would it be more advantageous to enlarge our understanding of “language” to embrace any code of meaning, such […]

Making Religious Peace: A Historical Perspective

Between 1529 and 1651 six major clusters of religious war engulfed Europe. Most of these wars ended in some form of political compromise, but even in the exceptional cases religious war eventually yielded to religious peace. Though historians traditionally focus on the wars, this presentation will focus on the broad and durable pattern of religious […]

The Mongols and the Church of the East

Recent scholarship has drawn renewed attention to the prominence of Nestorian Christians in the Mongol Empire (1206-1368). Drawing upon a broad range of primary sources in Syriac, Latin, Turkish and other languages, this lecture explores the role of the Ongut Turks of Inner Mongolia in the articulation of religious identity in the Mongol world. Joel […]

Theology and the Danish Politics of Offense

The 2005 Danish “Cartoons Crisis” – as it has come to be known – set off a wave of protests and debates around the globe. The phenomenon was widely framed as a conflict between the freedom of speech, on the one hand, and the right not to be offended, on the other. Scholars have challenged […]

Beyond the Second Commandment: Image Wars in Past and Present

The point of departure of this presentation is that human relations to images are culturally constituted and are central to the politics and aesthetics of world making. Specific cultural settings shape what images should depict, how they are viewed, where they are displayed, how they are valued, which emotions they arouse, and how and where […]

Mediating Piety: A Qur’anic Quarrel in Indonesia

Indonesian Muslims have been participating enthusiastically in the global rise of middle class piety. One way to gain insight into contemporary piety is to examine conflicts that might reveal the internal tensions and pressure points to which it is giving rise. Among the more puzzling conflicts for many outside observers to grasp have been those […]

Concerning "Goodbye, Christ": Langston Hughes, Political Poetry, and African American Religion

In March 1953, Senator Joseph McCarthy called the poet Langston Hughes before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Formed in 1948, the PSI was initially charged with investigating allegations of corruption in the national defense program. When McCarthy assumed the chairmanship, however, he redirected the focus, turning it into a tribunal to expose Communist subversives among […]

Transactional Reality and the Regimes of Truth

The premise of this talk is that knowledge is not something that we can discover but rather only something that we can produce. As such, each new instance of knowledge emerges transactionally through the interaction of configurations of materiality, discourse, and ideology—realities that are themselves the product of complex transactions. Drawing on theories from the […]

“Pragmatism…she widens the field of search for God”

On several occasions William James described Pragmatism as continuing the work of the Protestant Reformation, loosening the ties of orthodoxy and outworn habit of any kind to admit all the possibilities of belief belonging to a pluralistic universe. In the penultimate paragraph of Pragmatism (1907), he writes; “We do not yet know which type of […]

The Catholic Invasion of China, 1841-2000

The Catholic Invasion of China, 1841-2000 is a subject that has undergone a great reevaluation during the last half-century. In the 1960s, it was viewed as nearly synonymous with the experience of Western imperialism. The physical incursion into China of thousands of religious ended with the expulsion of the missionaries in 1951, but the mental […]

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